Categorization is the way that we make sense as human beings of a chaotic world of choices and options.
Case in point:
Whenever we walk into a grocery store, the peas and the peanut butter aren’t on the same aisle. Peas are considered a vegetable (or a legume) and peanuts (despite their whipped nature) are a nut.
Sometimes they’re also an oil or a spread.
Just like the ordering in a grocery store, we order the experiences to understand the opportunities that are available to us (or not), the dangers, and the neutral spots.
When we think of our adult careers, we still think of the order the progression of time to the end of adulthood through the attaining of jobs.
Jobs are those permanent states of being where we advance, struggle, and succeed with other human beings in the pursuit of common goals, not individually chosen.
Despite what you have read, the attitude and characterization of work that needs to be done into “jobs” and then “everything that’s not” is not going away anytime soon in many people’s heads.
Instead what is on the rise is the categorization of work in terms of projects: Short bursts of work with a team that we did select (or who selected us) who are doing highly impactful work, at a smaller scale, that seems rare. This definition of projects is not to be confused with the project work we that exists inside of organizational structures that is highly controlled, highly experimental, and often not politically supported.
The other form of categorization of work that is on the rise are partnerships. These are states of pairing with someone else (usually another professional) to do short bursts of meaningful work and then to separate, sometimes permanently. Partnerships and their state of impermanence seem so rare that we often don’t categorize them in the space of work. Most often they are framed as rare, specialized opportunities that are available to others, but not to us.
Why does categorization of work experiences, career opportunities, and job prospects matter?
Because in the career and social chaos that is abounding at the end of the Industrial Revolution, the skills that we need to prioritize are not skills based in more credentialing, more training, or even more education.
Although that would be nice.
The skills that we need to prioritize are those focused around knowing your own capacity for risk and courage (self-awareness), developing persuasion and influence with others (storytelling) and being able to manage other people and crises when they occur (conflict management) as they will in a world of people working with people.
The skills that matter, that will take us to jobs, projects and partnerships that will fulfill us and get us paid, will focus increasingly around skills that once seemed “easy,” “soft,” or “not really valuable to the bottom line.” Moving learning and exercising these skills out of the category of “innately acquired” in your head to the category of “valuable to my career” is the first step toward growing and developing the kind of work world you want to advance in.
And the kind of workplaces that you want your children to advance in.